PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — On August 22, 2022, the South Dakota Government Accountability Board (GAB) said they intended to refer a complaint about Governor Kristi Noem’s use of state planes to fly to political events to the Attorney General’s office for further investigation.
Two days later, on August 24, the AG’s office said it had not yet received the GAB complaint.
On the morning of September 7, 2022, 16 days after the GAB noted that it would send the complaint, a representative of the AG’s office could not confirm to KELOLAND News whether or not the complaint has yet arrived.
“I don’t have an update at this juncture,” Stewart Huntington, the AG office’s newest spokesman said over the phone when asked if the complaint had been received. Asked whether that meant that the complaint from the GAB has not in fact been received, Huntington again said “I don’t have an update at this juncture.”
The current Attorney General, Mark Vargo, told KELOLAND News in August that he had not received the GAB complaint, and that no decision could be made until the referral is received.
Questions have arisen on whether or not Vargo, who was appointed to the office in June by Noem following the removal of AG Jason Ravnsborg following his impeachment. Vargo has not indicated whether he will recuse himself from an investigation of the official who directly appointed him.
The Democratic nominee challenging Noem, called for a special prosecutor to “investigate the extent to which Governor Noem engaged in misconduct.” Smith said he believes Vargo has been put in an awkward spot by the GAB sending a complaint back to the attorney general’s office.
The Noem campaign has said the GAB hasn’t pointed to a single law Noem has violated and has denied any wrongdoing.
When asked what law Noem broke, Smith responded he didn’t know.
“I don’t know if she broke one. That’s what this investigation is supposed to find,” Smith said. “I do know that we as South Dakotans would like to know where the airplane is going. It’s not a personal airplane. It’s the state’s airplane and it should be used for state business.”
Ravnsborg initially sent the complaint regarding use of state planes to the GAB in Sept. 2021.